An iterative, creative tool for visualizing career paths in the social sector


Odyssey Arkk is the working prototype of an online tool for iterative, visual career planning. The tool was built as part of a hack-a-thon challenge hosted by The Stanford Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society, Whitehouse Office of Social Innovation and Civil Participation, and Whitehouse Office of Science and Technology. Participants were tasked with the challenge of connecting young people with social impact jobs. 

Our small team of undergraduate students built Odyssey Arkk off of the LinkedIn API. The service allows you to chart and build career trajectories, identify role models with non-linear career paths in the social sector, and gain better clarity on the skill-building opportunities and value of social sector jobs. 

Odyssey Arkk was selected as the winning solution, and presented to the White House Office of Social Innovation. 


understanding the barriers

To understand the factors at play in choosing (or not) to pursue jobs in the social sector, we sourced stories from current students and millennials early in their careers. Discounting salary as a factor, two trends stood out:

A lack of examples of non-linear career paths in or through the social sector. Fewer visible role models in the social sector than in the private sector. This was combined with a fear of taking a “wrong first step” out of school and getting stuck. 

Unclear opportunities for skill-building. Unlike consulting positions or jobs at high-profile tech companies, transferable professional skills were not highlighted in social-sector job postings. Students deferred moving in to the social sector until “later” because they viewed it as a dead end.

design directions

How might we make career planning more iterative to allow young people to visualize multiple, non-linear, career paths?

How might we highlight the journeys of role models with non-traditional career paths through the social sector?

How might we provide an opportunity for the social sector to highlight skill-building opportunities and draw candidates based on values?  

building and testing

In the thirty days leading up to the event, we came to initial outlines for Odyssey Arkk. During the ten hour hack-a-thon, with input and feedback from organizations like Guidestar, LinkedIn and the Foundation Center, our team built a live, dynamic version of the tool off of the LinkedIn API. We used the LinkedIn database to auto populate career information and recommend role models, and drew up designs for how the tool might leverage Guidestar and Foundation Center data on nonprofits in the future.

Testing with the partner organizations, Stanford faculty and other students during the event yielded the following new insights:
The ability to save and revisit historical versions of your potential paths allows you to better recognize changing perspectives and emerging interests. Highlighting the leaders of social-sector organizations promotes opportunities for mentorship. Emphasizing the visual aspect of the tool lowers the barrier of making choices feel overly final.


After presenting the working prototype to a panel and audience of silicon valley experts and stanford faculty, our team was selected the winner. We later presented Odyssey Arkk to Jonathan Greenblatt and the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in Washington D.C..